The Chemistry of Alchemy
From Dragon's Blood to Donkey Dung, How Chemistry Was Forged
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About the author
Cathy Cobb is the author of The Joy of Chemistry (with Monty L. Fetterolf); Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth (with Monty L. Fetterolf and Jack G. Goldsmith); Magick, Mayhem, and Mavericks; and Creations of Fire (with Harold Goldwhite). She is an instructor of chemistry, physics, and calculus at Mead Hall School in Aiken, South Carolina.
Monty L. Fetterolf is the author of The Joy of Chemistry (with Cathy Cobb); Crime Scene Chemistry for the Armchair Sleuth (with Cathy Cobb and Jack G. Goldsmith). He is a professor of chemistry and the department chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics at the University of South Carolina at Aiken.
Harold Goldwhite, emeritus professor of chemistry at California State University, Los Angeles, is the author of eight textbooks on chemistry, and Creations of Fire (with Cathy Cobb).
From the Hardcover edition.
A unique approach to the history of science using do-it-yourself experiments along with brief historical profiles to demonstrate how the ancient alchemists stumbled upon the science of chemistry.
Be the alchemist! Explore the legend of alchemy with the science of chemistry. Enjoy over twenty hands-on demonstrations of alchemical reactions.
In this exploration of the ancient art of alchemy, three veteran chemists show that the alchemists' quest involved real science and they recount fascinating stories of the sages who performed these strange experiments.
Why waste more words on this weird deviation in the evolution of chemistry? As the authors show, the writings of medieval alchemists may seem like the ravings of brain-addled fools, but there is more to the story than that.
Recent scholarship has shown that some seemingly nonsensical mysticism is, in fact, decipherable code, and Western European alchemists functioned from a firmer theoretical foundation than previously thought. They had a guiding principle, based on experience: separate and purify materials by fire and reconstitute them into products, including, of course, gold and the universal elixir, the Philosophers' stone.
Their efforts were not in vain: by trial, by error, by design, and by persistence, the alchemists discovered acids, alkalis, alcohols, salts, and exquisite, powerful, and vibrant reactions--which can be reproduced using common products, minerals, metals, and salts.
So gather your vats and stoke your fires! Get ready to make burning waters, peacocks' tails, Philosophers' stone, and, of course, gold!
; July 2014
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Title: The Chemistry of Alchemy
Author: Cathy Cobb; Monty Fetterolf; Harold Goldwhite
In the press
“Twenty-first-century safety standards are mixed with fourteenth-century experiments in a breezy exposition. The discussion of ‘proof by authority’ not only illuminates the sources of the philosophers’ stone but also suggests that similar thinking is active in modern politics and religion. This is the first account of alchemy I have seen that I would characterize as both light and enlightening reading. The chemical experiments may not be as flashy as they would have been centuries (or even decades) ago, but they’re colorful enough to be preferable to most currently available home chemistry sets. The description of isolating sal ammoniac from natural sources will leave the reader in stitches if not in stenches.”
—Alexander Scheeline, emeritus professor of chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“The authors have removed alchemy from the realm of magic to show the actual chemistry behind it, and include experiments the reader can do at home.”
—John A. Pojman, PhD, professor of chemistry, Louisiana State University
“The Chemistry of Alchemy gives the chemist’s perspective, in nontechnical language, to the core history of alchemy and its importance to modern chemistry. Selected works illustrating key concepts from alchemy are reproduced in carefully designed experiments throughout the book. The alchemists’ quest for gold was not in vain, as they contributed and refined many scientific concepts we have today.”
—Stephen L. Crump, PhD, Savannah River National Laboratory
From the Hardcover edition.